When a court sets the amount of damages for copyright infringement, a decision against the defendant should be rendered within the scope of the compensation admitted by the defendant (Taiwan)

Yuki Chiang

The Intellectual Property Court rendered the 109-Min-Su-48 Decision of June 30, 2020 (hereinafter, the “Decision”), holding that when a court sets the amount of damages based on the circumstance of the infringement, if the defendant admits to the subject matter of the action as claimed by the plaintiff during the oral arguments, the court should certainly render a decision against the defendant based on such admission in accordance with Article 384 of the Taiwan Code of Civil Procedure.

According to the facts, the Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant had infringed his copyright by obtaining images of the Plaintiff’s designs and creations from a social media platform on Facebook (hereinafter, the “Works”), reproducing and posting them on its  website without the Plaintiff’s authorization, in order to advertise the cough drops it sells.   This case was prosecuted, and since the Defendant did not deny the infringement during the procedure, the local court rendered a criminal decision in which the Defendant was sentenced to 30 days’ detention with a two-year probation.  In addition, since the damage of this case was difficult to calculate, the Plaintiff requested the Court to award damages in the amount of NT$38,380 based on the circumstance of the Defendant’s infringement, i.e., the period of the Defendant’s infringement and the selling price of NT$380 of the goods sold by the Defendant.

Under the Article 88, Paragraph 1 (first part), Paragraph 2 and Paragraph 3 (first part) of the Copyright Act, a person who unlawfully infringes on another person’s copyright or plate rights intentionally or out of negligence shall be liable for damages.  With regard to the damages referred to in the preceding paragraph, the injured party may make a claim in any of the following manners: (1) in accordance with the provisions of Article 216 of the Civil Code; provided that when the injured party is unable to prove damages, it may base the damages on the difference between the amount of expected benefit from the exercise of such rights under normal circumstances and the amount of benefit from the exercise of the same rights after the infringement; and (2) based on the amount of benefit obtained by the infringer from the infringing activity; provided, that if the infringer is unable to establish costs or necessary expenses, the total revenue derived from the infringement shall be deemed its benefit.  If it is difficult for the injured party to prove actual damages in accordance with the provisions of the preceding paragraph, it may request that the court, based on the seriousness of the matter, set the amount of compensation.

According to the Decision, since the Defendant infringed the Plaintiff’s reproduction and public transmission rights by reproducing and uploading the Works to its webpage as advertisements of its own products without the Plaintiff’s approval or license, the Defendant is certainly liable for damages.  Therefore, the court should award the amount of damages by considering the nature of the works, the damage potentially sustained by the Plaintiff as a result of the infringing act, the benefit potentially obtained by the Defendant, the manner in which the works are utilized and other factors and based on the principle of fairness and reasonableness.  In this case, the court considered that since the Defendant contended that “the reasonable amount of compensation should be NT$19,000” during the oral arguments, such contention reflects the Defendant’s admission.  Under Article 384 of the Code of Civil Procedure, a decision against the Defendant should be rendered based on such admission.  As for the Plaintiff’s claim in excess of NT$19,000 mentioned above, the court considered that since the Defendant only sold a small quantity of goods on its own and was not a business operator with a respectable scale, not to mention that only one page of the Works was posted for merely 101 days, the excess portion of the claim is too high and should not be granted.